What to Expect After Adrenal Surgery
Most patients will be eating, drinking, and walking around the night of their surgery. Patients that have had an open adrenalectomy may need to wait until the next day or two days to eat and drink.
Patients that have a laparoscopic adrenalectomy will have mild pain after surgery that can usually be controlled by non-narcotic pain medications, such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. Patients that have an open adrenalectomy may require pain control with narcotics.
A light bandage consisting of a gauze pad and a clear plastic covering will be placed over your incision after surgery. This bandage may be removed 48 hours after surgery. If you have steri-strips on your incision, leave them in place until they begin to fall off naturally. If they have not fallen off in 7-10 days, you may gently remove them.
If staples were used to close your incision, leave them in place, they will be removed on your follow up clinic visit. Your incision may be sensitive so avoid tight restrictive clothing. You may feel a firm ridge directly under the incision. This is normal and will soften and go away when healing is complete usually in 3-6 months.
All incisions are sensitive to sunlight. The ultraviolet light of the sun and tanning booths will darken the scar area in the first year. Always use sunscreen.
You may shower the day after surgery. Try not to get the bandage totally soaked. Once the bandage is off, it is still fine to shower. Still, try not to totally saturate the incision. You should not go swimming or soak in a tub or hot tub until your surgeon tells you it is okay.
You may eat whatever you choose. You may prefer softer foods and liquids initially if you have a sore throat. Advance your diet as you see fit. Make sure you stay hydrated. Your appetite may be decreased right after surgery, but will improve with time.
This is normal to experience after surgery and will often last up to 5 days after surgery. Lozenges and a softer diet may be helpful until this resolves. You may also feel like you have phlegm in your throat and need to cough. This is due to the irritation of the tube in your windpipe during surgery. It should clear up in 4-5 days.
Pain Management at Home
Take NSAIDS like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for the first 3-5 days as needed. Take medication as directed on the medication container. To prevent acetaminophen overdose, do not take acetaminophen when you are taking the pain reliever – Percocet – that was prescribed on your discharge from the hospital. They both contain acetaminophen.
If you take the Percocet or any other narcotic – DO NOT drive a car or drink alcohol. If you are taking Percocet or any other narcotic, this can cause constipation and you may need to take a stool softener, such as Colace.
Back to Everyday Activities
- In general, overall recovery may take 2-4 weeks and for open adrenalectomies it could be longer.
- Walk every day and gradually increase the time and distance that you walk.
- Avoid lifting, pushing or pulling anything heavier than 10 pounds for 4 weeks or as directed by the surgeon to avoid hernia formation at the incision.
- Avoid activities that strain your abdominal muscles for at least 4 weeks or as directed by the surgeon.
- Do not do any vigorous activity for at least 4 weeks.
Patients with cortisol-producing tumors or Cushing's Syndrome will need to take steroid pills after surgery. The steroid dose will slowly be decreased over time as the remaining normal adrenal gland resumes adequate function and production of steroids.
If you had both adrenal glands removed or the remaining adrenal gland is not working properly, you may need to take steroids to replace the hormones that were previously made by your adrenal glands. These steroids may be essential for life so you should never stop them before contacting your doctor.
When to Notify Our Office
You should call our office at 410-328-6187 if you experience the following symptoms:
- Fever with a temperature higher than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Difficulty swallowing
- Increased pain at the incision not relieved by pain medication.
- Increased swelling, redness or drainage from the incision.
- Increasing abdominal swelling.
- Persistent nausea or vomiting.
- Unable to eat or drink liquids.
- Cannot urinate or have a bowel movement.
If you have trouble breathing, call 911 immediately.
Follow Up Visit
Your post-operative appointment will be scheduled for 1 or 2 weeks after your surgery. Please call 410-328-6187 to make the appointment.
The American Association of Endocrine Surgeons - Patient Education
For more information, please call our office at 410-328-6187.